5 Tech Trends Revolutionising Healthcare

James Craig — Strategist, Athlon

Healthcare has long been viewed as one of the last greenfields ripe for innovation thanks to advances in technology, data and user experience. Although still early days, technology is opening up vast new markets and enabling patient-empowerment in the healthcare sector.

The term HealthTech is being used to define technology and data that is helping both patients and healthcare companies track, manage and improve health.

The global HealthTech market is growing rapidly and has been predicted to be worth £43 billion by the end of the year. Here we list 5 tech trends and explore how they are revolutionising healthcare today.

Artificial Intelligence

Image source: https://deepmind.com/

So far 2017 has been the year of the chatbot with nearly every industry piloting this form of conversational AI. In the UK, Babylon Health (https://www.babylonhealth.com/) who are being backed by the NHS, have developed a free health assistant chatbot for your all of your non-emergency needs. As chatbots get more and more intelligent we may start to rely on them for emergencies, which begs the question, would you trust a chatbot with your life?

Google’s DeepMind, in cooperation with the NHS, is currently using machine learning to help prevent blindness. DeepMind have programmed a deep learning algorithm with a million anonymous eye scans and according to experts, the AI might eventually be able to prevent 98% of the most severe visual loss.

Meanwhile, researchers at Stanford University have created an AI algorithm that can identify skin cancer. They trained their deep learning algorithm with 130,000 images of moles, rashes, and lesions and according to results, its efficiency in diagnosing skin cancer rivals that of a professional doctor. The Stanford University researchers are hoping to bring this AI to a mobile app some time in the near future.

Telemedicine and Digital Therapeutics

Image source: www.babylonhealth.com

Telemedicine is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by tele-communications technology which in other words are GP appointments over Skype. The TeleHealth Index (2015) found that 80% of Doctors believed telemedicine was a better way to manage chronic disease rather than the traditional GP visit.

Digital therapeutics differ to telemedicine in that they are healthcare ‘interventions’ delivered through a smartphone or laptop. The NHS has recently relaunched (https://www.imedicalapps.com/2017/04/nhs-digital-apps-library/) an approved app library (https://apps.beta.nhs.uk) to help manage and improve the UK’s health. There are currently 26 apps listed with many more set to launch over the course of the year, which is good news for the 71% of millennial patients (Salesforce 2015) who want to engage with their healthcare providers via a mobile app.

Image source: http://clicktherapeutics.com/

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Image source: https://readwrite.com/2016/12/31/take-a-look-back-at-the-year-in-connected-health-for-2016-hl1/

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are revolutionising the way surgeons are trained. In the past, surgeons would have been forced to spend much of their time observing or assisting a senior consultant, but AR and VR is giving them much more of a first-hand like experience, an example being OssoVR’s (http://ossovr.com/) training platform.

VR is also being used in the medical treatment of patients. Doctors have started to be prescribe VR as an alternative to administering pain relief and it has also been successfully used in the treatment of autism, PTSD, depression and anxiety.

VR headsets have also been found to improve the inpatient experience and reduce the stresses associated with long stays in hospitals.

Wearables, Health Trackers and Sensors

Image source: http://hushhushlittlebaby.com/owlet-smart-sock-review/

Forbes (2016) has predicted that the wearable technology market will be worth $34 billion by 2020 and it appears that there will be major innovation in healthcare around this trend.

A whole host of wearables, health trackers and sensors have entered the healthcare market recently with some interesting examples including Owlet (http://www.owletcare.com/) a hospital grade baby monitor designed for home use. The monitor takes the form of a sock that is worn by the infant which monitors its heart rate and oxygen levels. Should these levels drop, the device will alert your phone that collects these vitals via Bluetooth. Owlet claims to collect more data in one night than a doctor is able to collect in one year.

Another interesting example includes Alive Cor’s (https://www.alivecor.com/) Apple watch strap which gives its owner a medical grade EKG test so that the owner can proactively manage the health of their heart (heart disease is currently the leading cause of death in the UK and USA).

Mobility and Cloud Access

Image source: https://www.salesforce.com/solutions/industries/healthcare/health-cloud/

Hospitals, insurance companies, and GP surgeries are working towards storing patient’s electronic medical records in the cloud with patients able to access them and view test results online 24/7. In order to help achieve this cloud based utopia the UK Government has pledged £1.8bn to help the NHS go paper-free and to remove outdated legacy systems.

Conclusion

The disruption in healthcare has only just begun and these trends will continue to revolutionise the industry. And although Robotics and 3D printing are still in their relative infancy (the reason for not being included in this list) they look set to have a major impact on the future of healthcare. This is an exciting time to be involved in HealthTech.

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Athlon grows companies by creating products and services that transform everyday lives. www.weareathlon.com

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Athlon

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Athlon grows companies by creating products and services that transform everyday lives. www.weareathlon.com

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